National Bonsai and Penjing Collection of Australia

Who we are
Where we are
News archive
Contact us
The interim curator
The collection
Become involved
Related sites

Education resources

***Monthly News***

From The NBPCA Workbench
Callistemon Viminalis “Captain Cook”.  This Bottlebrush, donated by Derek and Sue Oakley from Perth, Western Australia has been at the Collection from its opening in September 2008.  The tree was transported in the back of a van, and partly in the van on a train, back in May 2008.
Callistemon 001 - Copy.JPGCallistemon 7 June 2011.
Callistemon on wheel barrow.jpgLoading callistemon.jpgLoading callistemon2.jpgVan on Train.jpg
Collecting the tree from Derek and Sue’s house, loading the van, and the van on the train to Adelaide.
This cultivar of the bottlebrush was dug from a garden in 2000.  Already an advanced shrub at the time, it had a heavy trunk and corrugated bark that suggested an old tree, which are excellent starting points for a bonsai.  The simple, slanting style suits the abundant flowering in Spring.
Picture1.pngIn flower at Sue & Derek’s place.
All of the donated trees at the Collection are continually assessed for areas that will improve the tree over time.  Since the Callistemon’s arrival here at the Collection, there have been some minor changes to continue improving the tree.  Firstly, the back of the tree had a couple of old wounds where large branches had been removed.
RIMG3393.JPGThis picture illustrates the two old wounds, one at the junction of the first branch, and the other half way between the base of the tree and the first branch.
The next series of photos illustrates how the old wounds were carved back with a die grinder, then sealed, firstly with a paste and allowed to dry, then sealed again with a putty.
Callistemon carving June 2009 001.jpgCallistemon carving June 2009 002.jpgCallistemon carving June 2009 007.jpg
From there, bark was inserted into the putty to disguise the work, which has worked well.Callistemon carving June 2009 011.jpgCallistemon carving June 2009 012.jpgCallistemon carving June 2009 015.jpg
The next improvement that we could see for the tree was a change in the angle that it was planted at.  This would mean more than just tilting the tree to the left, as there was some pruning required to the branches to make it look natural.  With this adjustment in mind, and through consultation with Derek and Sue, we waited until flowering had finished in Summer 2010, then gave the tree a hard prune.  The tree was then repotted into a mix of 50% Akadama, 25% marble chip, 25% crushed brick.
The next series of pictures shows the tree after a hard prune after flowering in December 2008; this shows the branch structure at the original angle of planting.  The second photo shows the new branch structure, and the third after repotting in December 2010.
RIMG3391.JPGok 001.JPGIMG_2884.JPG
Here at the Collection, our care and maintenance has been guided by Derek, however, we have had to also learn from our own climate and environment.  Canberra has a vastly different climate to Perth.  Our growing season is much shorter, and we do not have as hot summer days, we will also get a lot colder through winter.  To give you an example, the flowers on this Callistemon come 2 months later than they would in Perth.
Our general care will be the same.  Grow the tree in full sun, allow plenty of moisture for the tree with regular watering, and feed regularly through Spring, Summer, and Autumn. 
In the last 12 months we have fed the tree a mixture of Nitrosol and Seasol at 30mls each to 9 litres of water every 2 weeks from the beginning of September till the end of December.  From the beginning of January till the end of April, we fed 30ml Powerfeed and 30ml Seasol to 9 litres of water, done every 2 weeks.  We changed from Nitrosol to Powerfeed simply as it was easier to use with our watering cans, as the Powerfeed did not need to be strained to remove particles that would clog up the watering can, as was the case with Nitrosol.  The change bore no significance from a nutrient point of view.
As new growth elongates in early spring, we have managed long shoots that will not flower by trimming them back as they appear.  This tree had long shoots cut back twice at the end of October.  The tree begun flowering mid November, and the old flowers were removed on the 6th of December.  The flowers did not last very long this year as we had quite a lot of rain late November.  The flowers will deteriorate quickly if wet.  If it is possible to avoid getting the flowers wet, we will definitely do so next spring.
The tree was then given it’s hard prune, taking back quite a lot of growth as illustrated in the above pictures.  Subsequent growth from this point was managed to maintain a good outline until the growth slowed near the end of April.  An overall trim was done toward the end of January, and then a very light tip prune was done mid April.
Here is the tree again, as it was on 16th December 2008, and then 7th June 2011.
Callistemon viminalis captain cook D & S Oakley 16th Dec 2008.JPGCallistemon 001 - Copy.JPG